Monday, January 23, 2012

General Election after the next may be in 2018

Sunday Nation 22 January 2012

Before the High Court ruling on the election date was made, all Kenyans were clear in their minds about when they thought the elections should be held. A school of thought held that the August date mentioned in the Constitution was sacrosanct, and there was no other sane interpretation on the matter.

Others, including some lawyers who had participated in writing the various drafts of the Constitution, held that the first elections were supposed to be held in December of this year. Many Members of Parliament were totally against the August date, and would have been happy with a date some time in mid-2013 if that were possible.

After the ruling, however, no Kenyan, with the possible exception of the President and Prime Minister, knows with any degree of certainty when our next General Election will be held. All we know is that elections shall be held between 60 days from Monday (if the Principals dissolve their coalition) and March 15, 2013.

Knowing our MPs, it is obvious that they will do all in their power to have elections on the last possible date.
It is, therefore, quite conceivable that our next elections will be held on the ides (March 15) next year. Notwithstanding the Caesarian omens associated with this date, there is one possible consequence that no one has commented upon.

Second elections

Many Kenyans assume that it is obvious that the second elections under this Constitution will be held on Tuesday, August 8, 2017, unless the Constitution is amended to change this. Unfortunately, this is not the case, even though the High Court judges suggested that, as a result of their ruling, the term for the next parliamentarians may have to be shortened.

The relevant constitutional provisions indicate that General Election “shall be held on the second Tuesday of August in every fifth year.” Now if the next General Election is held on any date in 2013, it follows that the fifth year after 2013 would be 2018. It follows, therefore, that the elections after the next would be held on Tuesday, August 14, 2018, effectively lengthening the term of the next Parliament by anything from five to eight months.

Have any of the protagonists thought about this? One should not be surprised if some MPs have thought about it and are secretly hoping that they will be among the chosen few who will enjoy two prolonged terms in Parliament.

It is possible then that, as we continue arguing about when the next elections should be held, we may just be pushing the problem to the next generation of voters.

A curious point in all this debate is the dogged determination with which the minister for Justice is pursuing a Constitutional amendment to fix the General Election date in December. Though the reasons being given for this are temporary, the effects of such a date change would be permanent, fixing all future elections in December.

Does this mean that a future crisis will result in the government of the day seeking another amendment to change the election date?

My advice to the minister is to just leave well alone, and let the Principals decide.

A more useful, non-contentious First Amendment, in my view, should be the one to entrench a Health Services Commission in the Constitution.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association, and lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say something about this post!